Microsoft gears up to create more ties with Mac users

Microsoft Corp.’s launch of an ad campaign that will cost more than US$1 million to lure Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh users to its Office suite appears to be only the beginning of the Redmond giant’s efforts to build links between Windows-based applications and services with Apple hardware.

In the first phase, the television and print ad campaign will promote Microsoft’s newest version of Office designed for the Mac.

“The ad campaign is an example of our efforts to build and talk about our products to the Mac customer, and Office is the core of what we do,” said Tim McDonough, director of marketing and business development at Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash.

Beyond Office, Microsoft is also looking to expand the interoperability between the two hardware platforms.

Currently, Microsoft sells a Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) application that allows Mac users to log into their PC from a Mac. The technology is similar to terminal software such that as sold by Citrix. Business users with a PC in the office would be able to work at home from their Mac by logging into the office PC, said McDonough. MSN Messenger will also interoperate with Mac’s Instant Messaging service and allow both systems to share buddy lists.

But next year, Microsoft will begin to expand on its Macintosh applications and services.

In the first quarter Microsoft will launch MSN for the Mac and later in the year it plans on unveiling Outlook for Mac OS X.

Currently, Mac users can log into Outlook through a Web browser or using RDC.

“We are working on something even better, bringing more functionality natively instead of through the Remote Desktop Connection or Web access,” said McDonough.

The new application will give Mac OS X users direct access to Microsoft Exchange Server data. Other avenues of cooperation the two companies are exploring are with Apple’s FileMaker database application.

“There is a lot of work going on between the two companies,” said McDonough.

Microsoft would not give out any specific dollar amount for the initial ad campaign promoting Microsoft Office on Macintosh, but it will be in the multi-millions of dollars, according to McDonough.